Erik Truffaz / Marcello Giuliani
Interview: Bernd Eilts Photos: Zoltan Acs for 60minuten.net
March 16th 2016, the Erik Truffaz Quartet played at the Grand Theatre in Groningen/The Netherlands and I was waiting for Erik Truffaz for an Interview. Because he felt in sleep in his hotel, what I just heard later, I was able to talk with his bass player, composer and one of the soundmakers of this great Quartet, by accident in the foyer of the theatre.
Marcello Giuliani, born in Italy, 50 years old, but looking much younger without any doubt, living in the very expensive capital of france, Paris, is the bass player of the Erik Truffaz Quartet since 1997 and one of the main makers of that typical sound this group makes us feeling fantastic since they exist. Marcello got an idea, why Erik Truffaz was late for our appointment. He said, when Erik see’s water somewhere, he just stop in his activity and rest for a moment. Of course, I understand this. Sitting next to a river, a channel, the sea, and enjoying the space….. in hopefully some sun.
Marcello started playing bass after he heard the bass GOD Marcus Miller. He got fascinated through his typical slap-bass-sound and started studying this special way of playing all the time. Also influenced through legend Jaco Pastorius, he started next to playing the bass also composing and mixing. The band is on tour now since beginning of january and this trip will continue until at least, with short breaks, end of may. Followed through festivals and other concerts in all Europe and Canada. Marcello told me about those many hours traveling, driving in the bus from city to city. Sometimes also flying, but almost never ending trips by car again and again. It is not strange to get the idea, musicians getting tired of that unbelievable heavy program, playing all the time, traveling that much, from city to city, from one country to another one, without taking a real break. But, at least for me, it was just very interesting to notice, Marcello didn’t complain at all. He is just thankful, he can do this job, playing and creating all the time with his fellow grande musicians, a band that has already a famous history with many remarkable albums and books great succes more and more all around the globe, our planet. When it comes to recording new material it is him and piano player/composer Benoit Corboz, most of the time, who design the sound, who make what we can enjoy. Erik Truffaz mostly stays away from that mixing job. Marcello has a very powerful character, same like a sportsman. He is one of the very strong pillars of the Erik Truffaz Quartet, who creates not just music and sound, but also create strongness and the big ability, to hold that Quartet comfortable and powerful together. Of course, with the others, who share the same ability. Because of this, this group can stay together for a long time, like a family, like a castle.
Then, Erik Truffaz appeared and we could start our talk. My first impression was, when we met, that he is a very silent, calm and friendly person, almost invisible, and really warm to stay in his presence. But don’t forget his big power, in music of course, and words. Am thankful and honoured for sharing this 35-minutes long talk with him. I hope, you, the reader, do too.
Bernd: Dear Erik Truffaz, thank you very much for making this talk possible.
Erik: You’re welcome. Bernd: Since many years your music is active in my life. It started with your album „Arkhangelsk“ (Blue Note Records). In that period I traveled often to Brasil to visit my ex girl-friend in Brasil’s beauty Rio. And I brought her also your music, in special this album. What I really love in this one is the choice of your vocalists, like the voice of Ed Harcourt. Erik: He is incredible. Bernd: Another private hightlight is your album „Our Theory“ (on the label Nublu, a collaboration with Ilhan Ersahin, Thor Madsen, Jochen Rueckert and Matt Penman). It stays without any doubt very modern and powerful. Erik: We are doing our best. Bernd: Next to your album „Paris“ (Blue Note Records), the duo recording with beat-boxing vocalist Sly Johnson. My idea about your music, it’s always very powerful recorded and presented. Erik: Yes, but it is not because of me. The keyboarder is a very good sound engineer. He did the sound from „The Dawn“ (Blue Note Records) and every album, he is the sound engineer. His name is Benoit Corboz, his father is the big suisse classical conductor, Michel (Jules) Corboz. But our sound is also mixed and produced by our bass player Marcello Giuliani, he work a lot for us. Bernd: Your album „Saloua“ (Blue Note Records) is very beautiful. Erik: Yes, I love it too. It is another band and another project. Bernd: I also want to congratulate you to your new album „Doni-Doni“ (Blue Note Records). Erik: Thank you. Bernd: I heard, the meaning of Doni-Doni is „step-by-step“, slowliness. Erik: Yes, it is exactly this, you know, it is from Mali in Africa.
Bernd: My idea is, you are very lucky with your choosen vocalists for all your projects. Erik: You know, the first one was Nya. Marcello and myself were playing in his band. So, it was natural. After that we invited him to play in our band. The second singer was Mounir Troudi (Blue Note Records album „The Walk Of The Giant Turtle“). I saw him one day, when we performed at the Tabarka Jazz Festival in Tunesia. He was jamming outside and I loved him. After we spended time together, he explained me a modal arabique tune. After him we had Ed Harncourt. I met him during a performance during a Chet Baker Tribute.
Bernd: What are your Influences? You like music of the 70s a lot, like: Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, german bands like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze.
Erik: Yes, yes, yes. But now I listen a lot to classical music, like the Schubert quartet, Ravel, Debussy. Bernd: What do you find in this music? Erik: I find the roots of the jazz.
Suddenly we got disturbed my noise from working people in that room. So we left and went out to find another place for continuing our talk.
Erik: In classical music I find something, that is strong for me, what is emotion and space. And in some parts of the classical music, specially in the ballads, in the Andante. For example: if you listen to the Faure‘ Requiem, it is very incredible, there is a lot of space. I like it very much, when there is space. Also, Schubert’s quintet, is really beautiful. And I love that good rythm, but there is space also. But I don’t like the symphonies of Schubert. I like, when there is space in the music.
Bernd: You love the old Miles Davis‘ records in special?
Erik: You know, old Miles Davis is so good! I listen in my car to all that old Prestige Records of Miles, „Relaxin'“, „Cookin'“, „Steamin'“, that is fantastic. Yes, for sure. But I love also Ella Fitzgerald, I listen to her a lot. Am looking for music with good melodies, a good feeling, a good space. If I don’t find a good melody, I feel bored.
Bernd: What are your influences in art?
Erik: I am really into german literature, I read a lot. Old classicals, like old russian and french ones I also really love. Am very much in touch with paintings, with van Eyck for example. I love the light, I love van Gogh for sure, I love Rembrandt. If I wouldn’t be so busy, I would have loved to stop the tour this morning to visit Amsterdam and see Rembrandt there. In that museum, there is just one room so incredible. I’m also in touch with Rothko and the abstract paintings. Am also very much in touch with poetry, I love Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Musil. That’s my life. I just don’t have so much time to see all, what I wish to see. But tomorrow morning, before we leave, I would love to visit the Groninger Museum.
Bernd: You had a project with musicians in India, in Kolkata, called Benares?
Erik: You have to listen to this album. (Erik Truffaz – Benares, EMI, 2008). I had a three weeks tour in India and the idea was, to invite from every town we visited, 2 or 3 musicians. I love a singer and a tabla player. So after the trip I invitend them to France. After that I went back to visit Kolkata for 2 month and we recorded the album.
Bernd: Are you also interested in the indian culture somehow?
Erik: The indian culture is really complicate, but I love to be there. Because it’s between chaos and meditation. This extreme position I love. I love to leave Europe sometimes, because I love to loose my habit. I love this.
Bernd: One big quality of your music is, that you mix styles.
Erik: Yes, but what you must know is, that parts of the creation of my music is not just me. It is the quartet. And the powerful man in that is the bass player, Marcello Giuliani. But I made some album’s also myself. Like „Mexico“ (Blue Note Records), „Benares“, „Saloua“ for example. But „Doni-Doni“ (Blue Note Records) is really improvised together. I am not so good in production. I don’t like to mix, so I leave it to the others. And this is completely okay for me and the others. I learned in my life to let go, what you are not able to do. Some people want to do everything. Too much ego. And they loose sometimes something.
Bernd: Does this mean, if you would play just by yourself, the sound would be completely different?
Erik: No, no. It just mean, for example, some people are journalist, they are not able to be a writer. You can’t do everything. You just have to discover, what you are able to do, what you are for in this life. Sometimes it takes time, to discover.
Bernd: That’s so true. My idea is, that musicians for example french ones, own this quality to mix different styles so much, like Louis Sclavis. Erik: Yes, I know him, he is a good guy. Bernd: Also Henri Texier for example and Michel Godard, just to name some. Erik: Yes, but these guys you mention, they mix, because it is a jazz way. But they are not in touch with pop music. That’s the difference. That’s how we produce the album. We spent one day by tune for the mix. In jazz, you can make a mix in 1 or 2 days. That’s a difference.
Bernd: For me, the french style has something special charming. Like the sound of the french language. Erik: Okay. Bernd: The french culture, french movies, and you are french and your sound is in a way french. Erik: That’s true! That’s true! Because my melody is really french. You know, what is a little bit american in my band is the rythm, the drums. It is inspired by Motown. My melody comes from the french tradition.
Bernd: You also played with Bugge Wesseltoft. Erik: Yes, I was with him 2 days ago. Bernd: You told, when you play with Bugge, you suddenly hear, what you played 10 seconds before. Because he’s working a lot with samples. What is the magic about playing with Bugge?
Erik: He is a master of the keyboard, you know. He plays the mood, he play all this, he is like Joe Zawinul. But he does it now 20 years after Joe, the process, the sound, with amazing technique, amazing incredible classic jazz technique. And also, these people from the north, they have the sounds of the space. I love that space! And you can find this in the music.
Bernd: Is this you personal philosophy, to have space?
Erik: It is very important for me to have space. Even in this room. (laughing)
Bernd: Can you describe in a short way, what the magic is of your band, you are playing with now?
Erik: The magic of my band is, since the beginning, we are able to create different kinds of atmospheres. Some atmospheres are really punchy, groovy, and some atmospheres are really ambient. That comes together with a good melody and a good rythm. That’s the secret, this contrast. And when you see the concert, you will feel like being in a movie, with contrast. The people need to be surprised.
Bernd: My next question is about playing the trumpet. You are a trumpet player, you play with air, that you share with all of us, even all life on earth.
Erik: Yeah, this is a good question. Because, you know, the air, how you breathe, is a connection between the sky and yourself. Bernd: Exactly. Erik: In a spiritual way. You can find this back in Zen. Bernd: It is the Prana, you can say. Erik: Yes, this is really important. And I try to work sometimes on Meditation. This is important.
Bernd: How do you organize your playing, to get that sound, through breething, if i may ask this?
Erik: No, you know, the concert and the sound is the same, like when you speak. You don’t show something else, it is in you. It comes from your culture, it is what you are. All I organize, is just the way, I play. And how I can organize my music to optain a reaction with my breathe, how I confess with them. That is all, I organize. But the song, the composition, is the home. It’s great, when you discover a musician, close to your basic instinct, like Chet Baker, Jon Hassell. Now, the new ones, Nels Petter Molvaer and Arve Henriksen. I love these people, because they are in contact with the wind. You know, their sounds are from the wind.
Bernd: You tour a lot. You have a wide time table with a lot of concerts, with a lot of traveling. How can you manage that?
Erik: You know, the concert is a Meditation. Completely. Because, I breath, like you. And it’s meditation. We just think about now. And this you also do in meditation. This is the way of meditation: to be now and don’t think about anything else, than you are just doing right now. We can optain this in the concert. So, we have pleasure and we give pleasure to the people. It’s easier for me to give a concert, than to don’t give it. Because of my daily doctor. Like this, I have a lot and I’m really happy. It is for many musicians like this. My life is better, when I play. I love to play almost. So, like this, my life is more intense. The only thing, that is stressful, is to don’t play. If I see this, I am not playing for two month for example, I am not happy.
Bernd: Are you teaching?
Erik: No. I was teaching a lot, before I became a „Blue Note“ artist. But now I don’t have time. Mostly, I help my daughter. And sometimes, I give workshops. Every 6 months, someone ask me, to do a workshop, and then I do so.
Bernd: How do you compose?
Erik: Since the beginning, we record and improvise. We record all and keep the best. But it is also difficult. Sometimes you are really sad. But we always need to keep the highest vibe. I give titles to the songs after the composition. Mostly, in the beginning, we don’t know what will be the composition. I can not name it before. A time ago, when I wrote the music for a movie, like for Yasujiro Ozu, the movie gave me the line. But not for a title.
Bernd: How would you describe your sound?
Erik: My sound is just breathe with color, the expression of myself. And it’s the way to express my emotion.
Bernd: It is emotional music.
Erik: Yes. Completely. It is the distinction of my spiritual way, my spirituality. I don’t have a religion, but I’m in touch with the life.
Bernd: When I first heard your sound, I thought, it sounds blue. But incredible to realize, there is also always hope inside, at the same time. That’s a brilliant quality! You have a contract with Blue Note in France?
Erik: I had. Now it is Warner. Because „Blue Note“ moved with the jazz business. What was „Blue Note“ became „Warner“.
Bernd: Are there rules for you? I mean, do you have freedom to publish with them, what you want?
Erik: Completely! Yes, from the beginning on. That’s special, but it’s just because they don’t loose money with me. They don’t like to loose money. And its also, because we are really much in touch with the production. I don’t ask them to give me the money to invite Björk or Madonna. Because I know, if my work will not work, they will fire me. So, we think in a good way.
Bernd: You live in France, near Lyon. You never thought about moving to New York maybe? Erik: No. Bernd: There are many, in special young musicians, who want to go there, because there it’s happening, in the big apple. Erik: Yeah, they are right! They need this. And I love New York and the country, I love the space. Bernd: If you had the chance, to move to New York, with whom would you like to start a new band? Erik: I would have a look at the young musicians. There are many good young musicians. You know, I have a new drummer in my band right now, his name is Arthur Hnatek (pronounce Na-Tek). He is 25 years old.
Suddenly the manager of Erik Truffaz interupted our conversation, asking, how much more time we need. I told him, around 5 more minutes. Erik: That’s okay. Also the manager was fine with that answer.
Bernd: I want to ask you another question. When you compose or better, create music, is there a chance you react with your work on life, how we all have to deal with it right now? Because, we live for a part in a really chaotic world. Do you protest with your music?
Erik: No, I don’t protest with my music. I just need to create the possibility for people, to escape from that program. I give them a chance, in a very short time, to eat some spirituality. That I protest, when I speak, shows, that I don’t agree. I saw recently a french movie, where they say, that every single good vibe, that exist in the world, creates also good humans, so change this world, make it better. There are many people, who try to change the economy, for example, in Detroit. It was completely fucked up there and they made gardens. And they changed the economy of the town. And the poor people could enjoy the fresh vegetables (greeningofdetroit.com). Through this they escape from the big industry. The capitalism has no limit.
Bernd: When you think about your life with music, your talent, the gift you can give to others through music, like myelf. You are also a inspiration for me, when I listen to your music, or even in this beautiful talk we have right now. When I listen to your music once, it just stays with me for a long time. The sound comes back again, even just for short moments, and help me in my way, make steps lighter. Erik: Yeah. Bernd: When you think about that, what you give to others, don’t you think, you should work more? To give more?
Erik: No, no, because, you know, I never think about this. After the concert, when I meet people, I’m thinking about it. But I try to minimize my talent. I love the God, you know. I’m just a man, who has to learn, to be better. I try, to be better every day. And I cannot, to be honest, do more. Because I work a lot (smiling). No, I don’t think about this. But if I can, I’m happy. But I’m conscious, that I have ….. to create, to give something to the people, and to create positive vibez and to be paid, and to travel. What do you want more? It is incredible. And to have the gift, when you can do one song, there is something in all, you cannot learn. It’s that natural gift. Give me something with sound….. you cannot learn this. This comes from the spirituality. It is like a voice. I love, for example, Peter Gabriel. When he sings, there is a …. wow. It is like this.
Bernd: Thank you very much.
Erik: You are welcome!
Just a few words about the concert later that evening. The sound was great, very strong. The tunes had a great electrifying force, the rythm was fresh and wild, unknown and at the same time lovely. The new drummer Arthur Hnatek is more than a gift. The keyboarder Benoit Corboz played a fender rhodes, I never heard before, like a synthesizer, like a new space. What a power! The bass was there, constantly grounding all tunes, with a sound that has to decribe as perfect. In all this the trumpet, Erik Truffaz, with many effects but true, never disturbing. We all enjoyed that performance a lot! But, it was just too short. One hour plus a few minutes only. Interesting and very charming was Erik’s introduction, spoken in dutch. This guy just knows.
With many thanks to Laurent Klunge at Two Gentlemen Management!
Homepage Erik Truffaz
Interview and concert-pictures: